This is a short essay I wrote for a nursing magazine, about making a difference as a nurse
|This is an essay I wrote for a critical care nursing magazine six years ago. It has been edited a bit since then:)
How I Have Made A Difference Through Nursing in Someone's Life
I had been a Medical/Neurosurgical Intensive Care nurse for seven years, when I was assigned to a patient who on the previous day, had a large intracranial hemorrhage, too unstable for surgery. He lived a good distance from our facility, and due to the devastating injuries he sustained when he fell off his tractor, he was transported to the nearest Level One Trauma Center.
He had a very close family, if not in miles, then by the love they shared. I learned a lot about his family, including his son, who was also a nurse. I also learned a lot about him. I learned that he had just retired from full-time farming, bought a brand new pickup (something he had always wanted but didn't think he could afford), and had big plans to travel with his wife of 50 years. He only had one chance to drive this pickup; the day before this tragedy occurred.
My patient was in the ICU for several days, before he was stable enough for surgery. I had become his primary nurse on day shift, per his family's request. I became comfortable with his family, as they did with me. The family expressed how much they appreciated my compassion, and my willingness to answer any and all of their questions.
My patient made it through the long surgery, but there was a long road of recovery ahead. He had good days, where he recognized his family, and acknowledged the staff. He also had bad days; days in which he was in and out of consciousness. His intracranial pressure would rise to life-threatening levels at times. He had a ventriculostomy, to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from his brain, to decrease the pressure affecting his mentation. The staff could see how high the pressure was, because the ventriculostomy was hooked up to a monitoring system.
Every day was a battle, but he was fighting to live. As the days went on, he seemed to be improving. Medications were helping keep his blood pressure and intracranial pressure at a reasonable level. Physical Therapy and Occupational therapy was working with him, and he was participating. He was also weaning off the ventilator. All of these things were a positive sign, giving hope to his family that he would pull through.
Two weeks after his surgery, my patient developed an intracranial infection; complications resulting from the ventriculostomy. He was no longer responding to the typical antibiotics used for patients with this drain. He was put on stronger antibiotics, then even stronger ones, until the strongest one available was tried; it failed as well. My patient was deteriorating, as were his family's hopes.
I was there with them at the beginning of his hospitalization, and I stayed with the family, after my shift was over, until he died. I received a card from the family about two weeks after his death. In it, the family expressed their appreciation towards me for providing compassionate care for their loved one. I feel I have touched this family's life by being a compassionate, empathetic human being. Know your patients. Keep their best interests at heart. Who better to do this, than a nurse.
Intracranial Hemorrhage: bleeding within the skull.
Ventriculostomy: a neurosurgical procedure that involves creating a hole within a cerebral ventricle for drainage.
Cerebrospinal Fluid: a clear colorless bodily fluid found in the brain and spine.
Intracranial Pressure: the pressure inside the skull and thus in the brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid.